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The Brunei Gallery in 50 years


As part of Camden’s 50th Anniversary celebrations we were asked to answer the question “What have you achieved in the last 50 years”? Well for SOAS that’s a lot as 2016 is their centenary year but for the Brunei Gallery the first part of the answer to that question is nothing, but then that’s because we’ll only be 20 years old this coming November. The second part of the answer to that question is since the building was first opened by HRH The Princess Royal in 1995 quite a lot.

Since then we’ve presented over 130 exhibitions including Chinese textiles; the European experience of Africa and the Middle East; Islamic art traditions; contemporary Israeli art; contemporary art and design from Africa, Asia and the Middle East; Persian paintings; Japanese art; Middle Eastern archaeology; historical Indian photography; contemporary photography projects from Africa, Asia and the Middle East; Ethiopian 17th century art and architecture; history of the Arabian Peninsula; traditional crafts including Malay wood carving; Chinese ceramics; Egyptian textiles and tapestries; exploring the various medical, spiritual and dietary traditions for well-being from Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist customs; contemporary Middle Eastern art and Indian music traditions amongst many others.

We’re very proud of the exhibitions we’ve shown and that they have provided the first opportunity for many artists, collections, community projects and exhibitions, including charity campaigns, to be shown in this country.

In 2001 we created a Japanese style roof garden on top of the Brunei Gallery dedicated to Forgiveness, which is the meaning of the Kanji character engraved on the garden’s granite water basin. It provides an area away from the noise and bustle of London streets, where visitors can relax and meditate.

In 2007 there was the launch exhibition of SOAS’s own collection Objects of Instruction which led to the opening of the Foyle Special Collection Gallery where a selection of the School’s own collection is on permanent display. Currently on display is The Arts of Southeast Asia.

In January 2011 we reached a landmark with our 100th Exhibition Bridge of Knowledge: Western Appreciation of Arab and Islamic Civilisation in the Arcadian Library. Later that year we hosted the first ever major exhibition on the Golden Temple (Harimandir Sahib) of Amritsar and in 2013 the landmark exhibition The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination the first exhibition of its kind to provide a visual narrative of the history of Zoroastrianism.

So I hope you’ll agree we’ve achieved quite a lot in the last 20 years as we continue to introduce and promote a better understanding of the art, culture and history of Africa, Asia and the Middle East to a new and wider audience.

Monks, by Burmese artist Min Wae Aung